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Thursday, 31 August 1989
Page: 690

Senator SANDERS —My question is directed to the Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories. I ask: Is it a fact that the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Coronation Hill mine contains a proposal for a new access road to the mine site? Is it a fact that the road would involve major engineering works and that it passes through the breeding habitat of the extremely rare hooded parrot? Is it a fact that this breeding site contains only five breeding pairs, the highest number known to exist anywhere? Is it also a fact that any spillage of transported cyanide or other chemicals along this road not only would contaminate the local environment, but would inevitably flow into the South Alligator River? As the final EIS provides no environmental assessment whatsoever of this road, will the Minister call for the preparation of a preliminary environmental report, or EIS, on the road? Finally, does the Minister recognise that this situation is conclusive proof that the impact of the proposed mine extends far beyond the project area?

Senator RICHARDSON —Before answering the specifics of Senator Sanders's question, I think I should give some background information. I have until 12 September to provide advice to the Minister for Administrative Services, Stewart West, on the Coronation Hill mine environmental impact statement. I have not yet received from my Department its recommendations and its assessment of that EIS. I would expect to do so in the next few days. As soon as I have received them and before 12 September, I will make sure that I address some recommendations to Mr West. As to when a decision might be made on whatever I recommend, I will not attempt to predict a date. Obviously, broad issues are raised in the EIS on Coronation Hill which could have effects on areas quite some distance away. Given that, and the argument which is currently going on about the sickness country, it may be some time before Cabinet can actually make a decision. When I am aware of that taking place, I will let Senator Sanders know.

In terms of the specifics, I am aware that the final EIS contains a proposal for a new road to the site. This road obviously carries with it considerable potential for damage to the environment along the lines which the honourable senator has mentioned. There has been no separate environmental examination of that road. It would be up to me to recommend either a public environmental report or an EIS-or I could just say that I did not like the proposal at all, if I thought it was as bad as all that. But I am not going to pre-empt the judgments of either my Department or me. I will wait until I have had a proper assessment placed before me rather than just going on the cursory glance I have had at the final EIS. The decisions will be made very shortly and I will let the honourable senator know as soon as I can. Obviously, endangered species like the hooded parrot need to be looked at very carefully. I can give the honourable senator an assurance that they will be.